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Students praise organized course designs from PIVOT+ faculty

Some raise concerns over “course and a half” syndrome

In a survey of more than 500 courses taught by faculty who completed the PIVOT+ professional development program this past summer, students said they enjoyed taking classes that were well organized and planned. 

More than 85% of students who completed surveys said they agreed or strongly agreed that PIVOT+ courses flowed in a logical format. About 90% agreed or strongly agreed that requirements for the course were clear while 83% agreed or strongly agreed that instructions for assignments were clear. Grounded in Quality Matters principles, the PIVOT+ program focused on consistent course organization, clear information, and appropriate tools for online learning. “All of the information is in one place,” said one student, “and I never feel confused about what’s going on.”

Presentation delivered to the Faculty Senate Computer Policy Committee (11.3.2020)

Despite praise for course organization, students raised concern over “course and a half” syndrome, which is an overload of content and activities (Kaleta, Skibba, & Joosten, 2007). This feedback presented in both course design and pedagogy. With course design, students reported an overload of content, which made it difficult at times to find what they needed to read or complete weekly activities. Pedagogical overload occurred when too many graded activities occurred too quickly. Students felt like their instructors did not realize they were taking multiple online courses with rapidly approaching, frequently accumulating deadlines.

Additional observations:

  • The FA2020 semester saw a huge increase in Ultra adoption: More than 40% of UMBC Blackboard courses are using Ultra now. The PIVOT+ courses were no exception. Nearly 52% of PIVOT+ student survey responses said their courses used Ultra compared to 43% of courses still in Original. “Blackboard Ultra is amazing,” said one student, “ and every class should use it.”

  • Bb Collaborate (59%) supports synchronous engagement more often in PIVOT+ courses compared to Webex (17%). The PIVOT+ program utilized Collaborate for all live engagement with participants, faculty mentors, and staff support. 

  • PIVOT+ courses also leveraged other tools including the Google suite, Microsoft Office, and YouTube. These tools were mentioned often by student survey responses.

For most students completing the survey, the PIVOT+ course was not their first hybrid or online course experience. Moreover, more than 88% of students are accessing their courses from home and most students indicated they did not use the native Blackboard mobile app to access their courses. Overall, mobile usage for myUMBC is down 51% compared to last fall. This was expected since COVID-19 safety measures rapidly shifted the spring semester to remote instruction and summer/fall continued these restrictions to maintain physical distancing. 

About the survey

About 247 faculty completed the PIVOT+ program. Only five faculty opted out of the survey and six were not teaching this semester. Of nearly 13,000 survey links distributed to students, about one-third were completed, representing 88% of the PIVOT+ courses. More than 1,000 comments were left about tools used by faculty and an additional 857 comments provided on course design. 

A survey link represented one student in one PIVOT+ course. Therefore, if a student was taking two PIVOT+ courses taught by separate faculty who completed the program, the student would receive two separate survey links to represent each separate course design. The surveys were distributed to participants based on course enrollment and role (student) using Blackboard’s native Enterprise Survey tool. 

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Kaleta, R., Skibba, K., & Joosten, T. (2007). Discovering, designing, and delivering hybrid courses. In A. G. Picciano, & C. Dzuiban (Eds.), Blended learning: Research perspectives. Needham, MA: The Sloan Consortium.

By Mariann Hawken

Posted: November 18, 2020, 2:34 PM